View from Below, Part 3 (End)

by Kiko Matsing

Mangyan Tapis

Last September 10, my friends Jane and Bruce finally went home to the Philippines, after spending 2 years here in the US for Jane’s masters degree in socio-anthropology. After they left Florida last summer, when only touch-ups remained to be done on Jane’s thesis, they stayed for a while with Bruce’s family in Oregon, and also spent time visiting NGO friends in Brazil. Bruce worked long hours as a cashier at the local SAM’s Club in order to save funds for this trip.

He and Jane presented me with a precious heirloom before they left: a Hanunoo-Mangyan tapis that Bruce owned from the time he lived with this tribal community sequestered in the uplands of Mindoro. She must have been so lithe, the woman who owned this wrap of cloth that was given to Bruce. Among his other Mangyan keepsakes were bamboos carved with their ancient angular scripts and cloths embroidered with their trademark cruciform decorations.

Mangyan Script Pakudos

One of the last things I did before leaving for the US to pursue graduate school was to visit the National Museum in Manila with a longtime friend from college. It was there that I discovered the Ambahan of the Mangyans, and was stunned that such delicate poetic sensibility thrived there, tucked away in the forests of Mindoro. I copied those that affected me most at the time–melancholy verses about friendship, partings, and death. The cadence of the language was quite similar to Hiligaynon, my mother’s tongue from Panay, the island just southeast of Mindoro. Even with my limited knowledge of that dialect, I was able to recognize a familiar, lacerating word: hidlawan–longing, or sadness from parting.

Ambahan No. 181

Anong aypod upadan
Sarin ka pagmangginan
Mamaybay aw hunasan
Mangunayaw sa kagnan
No mangunay sa kagnan
Pagpamatara duyan
Sa kan aypod upadan
Una yi si hintunan
Pasaluyon way aban

My dear friend, be welcome here!
Where, perchance, did you come from?
From the seashore ebbing low,
from the bubbling water springs?
If from the water source up,
let us talk a moment here,
in a happy friendly way.
Even whoever you are,
we like to be at your side.

Ambahan No. 162

Kawo di ngatay asan
Ti manlang sis abyagan
Pamidkan pag mayanyan
Patlay pag malagwinan
Inda di bay dilihan
Si man gis labag gus-an
Ud may ma-rumpa-uyan
Manangda di bubungan
Mangusdong di tagikan

So, you will be going now,
starting on a journey far!
Your eyes will enjoy the trip.
Many things you will behold
But I, who will stay behind,
here within this four-walled room,
what thoughts could I entertain?
just looking up at the roof,
just looking down at the floor!

Ambahan No. 260

Magkunkuno ti karadwa
Padi tugon gabangan
Padi sangdan hidlawan
Gistay hay aban ginan
Likid ud di pa-uman
Nakan kis-ab sugutan
Nagsibayan yadiwan
Unay lindo wasigan

The soul bidding his farewell:
I go, not in angriness;
I leave, but I am not sad.
It is just that from now on
I will no longer come back.
That’s the way it has to be!
When a river splits apart,
each stream follows its own course!

Even in the awkward English of their Dutch translator (Antoon Postma, Treasure of a Minority, Manila: Arnoldus Press, 1972), one can discern the hidlawan sentiments of the original. It suits me to recall these poems now, when I am once again at the brink of another life, and at the threshold of many partings.

I received a letter posted September 4 from Oregon with a blue handmade card inside. It was from Jane and Bruce:


Maraming Salamat:
… sa walang humpay na kwentuhan tungkol sa pulitika, buhay estudiyante at lalo’t higit ang buhay na kamalayan.
… sa masarap na kape kasabay ng masarap na kwentuhan at hagalpakan.
… sa iba’t-ibang libro na ibinahagi mo sa amin seryoso man o nakakatawa.
… sa pagsasakatuparan ng aming pangarap na marating ang Everglades bago kami tuluyang umalis sa Florida.
… higit sa lahat salamat sa pagbabahagi
… sa malayang pagkakaibigan!

Salamat at nakatagpo kami ng katulad mo!

Nasa Pilipinas lang kami at anong oras pwede mo kaming dalawin para makaugnay ang mga kaibigan naming Ita, Mandaya, at iba pang tribo sa Pilipinas. Sa totoo–halo ang emosyon namin ngayon at malaking hamon ang haharapin sa pakikipag-ugnay sa sitwasyon sa bansa.

Bahala na! Laging may magaganap!

Ang mahalaga tiyak magkikita pa din tayo!

Maraming Salamat!

Kami pa rin,
Jane at Bruce

Ay! Nahidlaw ako!